And we back…
Prolific Toronto producer and beat maker Astro Mega just released his new album on Sunday Dinner Records, Channel 10. It’s a collection of songs inspired by funk, R & B, Hong Kong action movies, easy listening music, jazz, and smooth jazz. Samples are thrown into a steaming cauldron, where they are chopped, stretched and looped, then subject to some aural alchemy, magic dust and Astro Mega wizardry.
Mega’s sound stands out because he often references funk from the 1980s, one of his favorite eras of music, as well as smooth jazz and Golden Era hip hop.
Channel 10 contains 21 tracks and Mega says that the album is divided between a “Friday Night Program” and a “Saturday Night Program,” each with its own vibe. Your challenge: see if you can determine when the music crosses over, from Friday to Saturday night.
“1150pm” sets the tone right away, with a jazz loop that segues into “Black Tie,” where drums slap and keyboard washes flow through the mix, and are then augmented by a sudden burst of saxophone. “Vashtii’s Groove” chugs pleasantly along, and then ends with a vocal sample, and flows into “Leather Interior.” “Leather Interior” embraces the listener with a low, smoldering groove, that sizzles and pops. Other stand-out tracks include the funky “Dappa’s Theme, the percolating “Whisper,” and “P’s Theme.” The album ends with “To Be Continued?”, which is, hopefully, a hint of more music to come.
Explore Astro Mega’s music on Spotify, SoundCloud, or Bandcamp, where the artist has enough music to keep you enthralled for several months, at which point, you can start all over again and explore the nuances of the Astro Mega sound. To paraphrase a great philosopher, “it’s [instrumental] hip hop music, from the soul, y’all…”
This interview has been lightly edited for publication.
Backseat Mafia: What inspired you to create music? What inspires you everyday?
Astro Mega: Life in general inspires me. All the past moments good, bad, ups and downs, all of those experiences I put it in my music.
BSM: If someone asked you to describe the Astro Mega sound in one sentence, what would you say?
BSM: How did you come up with your artist name?
AM: I’m a nerd. I grew up watching a lot of anime, read alot of comic books and played a lot of video games. Arcades to consoles. Mega Man was one of my favorite video games growing up and Astro Boy was one of the very first anime I watched as a child. Astro Mega!
BSM: Where is your favorite place to create music?
AM: My apartment. I really don’t like making beats anyways else. It’s cool making beats in studio or at your homies’ spot but when your in your own space time moves different.
BSM: What is the one non-musical item you must have with you when you are creating?
AM: My self and weed. Everything goes much slower and at my pace.
BSM: Are you a vinyl crate digger? If you are, do you have a favorite place to dig? A shout out to your favorite record store? What was your greatest find?
AM: Been digging in the crates since the early 2000s. My favorite spot is Cosmos Records. They have everything and if they don’t have it they will do what they can to get it for you. Much love to Aki and Hissa. My greatest find was some Japanese 70s cop show cant remember what its called but I put it out there as a sample challenge a few months ago.
(Editor’s note: Cosmos Records, https://www.cosmosrecords.ca)
BSM: What is your preferred music production software/tool? Do you regularly use live instrumentation?
AM: I don’t play any instruments. I mean play some keys over a sample, but I don’t know music theory at all. As for software, I used Native Instruments, Serato Studio and Reason.
BSM: Is your music sample based? Where do you dig for samples?
AM: Yea, I’m sample based. I’ll sample anything from vinyl, CDs, MP3s VHS, cassette and YouTube. I used to look down on sampling off of YouTube or from a blogspot, but I couldn’t care less about that anymore. All I care is how the beat sounds at the end.
BSM: What is your favorite piece of audio gear or instrument? Why?
AM: It’s the Roland SP-404SX. I mainly use it for my beat sets but I also use it for texture. Give some of my beats a warpy touch and whatever other effects.
BSM: What album or track are you most proud of, or is most significant to you? Why?
AM: I have so many, but “Cocoa Butters” off of the Planet Nebula Tape.
BSM: Favorite artist, or artist you admire, in any medium?
AM: Madlib and Ohbliv. Those two really changed the game for me. Other producers as well before them, like Lord Finesse and Pete Rock, but it really be those two. Madlib is the goat and Ohbliv was like the second coming of Christ to me.
BSM: Favorite music to listen to when driving, relaxing or chilling?
AM: Jazz when relaxing, smooth G-funk on a nice summer day, just chilling.
BSM: Favorite artist from Toronto?
AM: Too many to name but my top four would be Max Melanin, CY, Josh Grant and Bombay.
BSM: Favorite or underrated R & B group from the 1980s?
AM: Loose Ends is my favorite group from the 1980s and pretty much of all time. As for underrated, it’s Jamm or Michael Cooper.
BSM: Your new album is called Channel 10. Why? You said this about the album: “It made me remember how dangerous and exciting growing up in that time period was.” Can you explain what you mean about “dangerous and exciting?”
AM: Growing up as a youth in the time where there was no internet or no GPS, wasn’t really accessible yet (yea I’m “old”). Which made things a bit more exciting when traveling anywhere. You would have to use your instincts and street smarts to get around and avoid all types of shit. If you wanna talk to a women or just socialize you had to go out to a club. As for the dangerous part, just watch some movies from the 80s to mid 90s and you will get the dangerous part.
BSM: Please take one track from Channel 10 and walk us through how you created the song.
AM: “Leather Black Hat.” I wanted to go back to my boombap style on some of the beats, but I was really stuck on what to sample. Finally, I came across a dope record to sample and threw a drum break over it. I was happy with the first couple of loops I created but I really wanted to fuck with the drums, make it sound more wild adventure type shit. So I a bit more chops on the break, so it wouldn’t sound too predictable. At the time, I was making that beat I was watching a lot of Hong Kong action flicks from the 80s and 90s.
BSM: Can you take another one of your tracks and give our readers a Sample Challenge?
AM: “90s Chinese Action Cinema.”
People, you’ve been challenged. And we outta here…peace…peace…peace…
Purchase Channel 10 here from Sunday Dinner Records:
Connect with Astro Mega on Bandcamp: